"I want you to take it. Take my power,
The twilight gaze that had been so unruffled, like the surface of smooth, flat clouds, was troubled now. "Touya, you--"
"It'll help you, right? I don't want my friend to disappear."
"You won't be able see your mother anymore..."
Touya's own gaze was steady. If it meant his friend -- this person, someone special to him -- wouldn't fade away and become nothing but a dream in the hearts of those who'd loved him, he could give up his 'power.' He didn't need to see Okaasan to know she was always near them and filled with love.
"It's all right." Touya smiled to reassure the stately, grave figure. It fell at the corners when Yukito's sunny expression failed to answer. This person was Yuki-but-not. "I was the only one who could see Mother anyway."
Yue regarded him for a moment longer, the pure violet moonlight of his eyes fixed. He seemed to be measuring up his decision and making sure of it. A cascade of starlight hair rippled around him with his nod; the color of Yuki's fair hair, but there was so much more of it. "You..." The stern mouth firmed into a considering line. "Thank you."
"Just protect Sakura."
He hesitated, thinking to lift a hand then clenching it at his side. "Yue, protect yourself."
*...Protect my most important person.*
"Hoee! I'm late!!" Kinomoto Sakura gave her hair a quick brush, snatched her backpack up from its corner, and waved to the little yellow creature seated on the floor. "Kero-chan, have a good day!"
"Ja!" The great and magnificent Beast of the Seal, Kerberos, was currently in his 'cute' form of a small, winged animal -- rather like a stuffed toy. He punched a few more buttons on the Playstation controller then looked up, dismay crossing his tiny face. "Wahh! Matte, matte! Today is the picnic in the park, ain't it!? I'm comin' with ya!" Small white wings flapped and in seconds he had zipped out the door just before it closed, moving to catch up and bury himself in Sakura's backpack.
"Ahh, Kero-chan, you shouldn't! What if someone sees--"
The girl's voice trailed off in the distance.
The room was silent and still.
For a few moments, at any rate.
A desk drawer slid out unpowered by anything but sparkles. In a moment, the glowing Book rose up from the drawer, a stylized sun on a doubled golden chain girdling the front, the gilded lock snapping open. Kerberos was absent from his guardian stance on the cover.
The Clow Cards had come out to play.
Sprightly, willowy creatures poured from the cards, wisping through the room and settling on every available surface. [The Flower] stroked [The Dash]'s tiny catlike head and big ears; [The Twin]s settled on the window seat and giggled together. [The Big] and [The Little] occupied the bed, leaning against one another. All the human-type cards assumed shape and took up whatever space was available. [The Firey] and [The Windy] looked expectant. It was [The Voice] who spoke up first.
"Yue-sama is not happy," she said, speaking with Tomoyo's voice, sounding sad.
"No," [The Dark] agreed. "Kerberos-sama has adjusted, he loves Lady Sakura; but Yue-sama is not happy."
"I think I know why," [The Light] put in, leaning towards [The Dark] with a knowing smile. "Yue-sama has absorbed the power of Lady Sakura's brother, with his consent."
"Ahhh," the humanoid cards exhaled. This was significant to all of them.
"Do you think Yue-sama may have feelings for Lady Sakura's brother?" [The Shot] spoke in rough dialect, leaning up against the wall, arms crossed.
A small smile touched [The Mirror]'s mouth. "There is only one way to find out."
The implication sunk in. Action from the cards. This sparked a furious babble from all attending cards. "But Kerberos-sama--" "We'll be punished!" "But Lady Sakura would--" "We'll be caught!" "Oh, we shouldn't!"
[The Silent] lifted a finger, and everybody was hushed.
"They won't find out!" [The Firey] said brashly, once they had recovered from the effects of the card's power. "They are gone for the day."
[The Wood] was nodding. "Yue-sama is unhappy, and if we don't find a way...Lady Sakura will have trouble with Yue-sama, when she most needs him."
"I agree," [The Light] said, and her words put a seal on the discussion.
"Love letter?" Yukito echoed the underclassman. His expression was confused as the girl continued to hold the envelope up, bowing till bangs obscured her face, letter in its heart-stickered envelope held up as an offering.
"If you would, please!" the girl repeated, lifting the envelope higher.
Yukito took it more to give the girl relief from her uncomfortable pose than out of any inclination.
"All right, I'll give it to him." He gave the girl a gentle smile as she straightened, clasping her hands.
"Thank you very much," she said, bowing again, "I can't give it to Touya-san myself."
Yukito nodded. "I understand." He kept up his smile even with a lump in his throat. The girl was pretty, even though he didn't recognize her from any of the swarm of underclassmen who vied for Kinomoto Touya's affections. Of course, Touya never noticed any of them in return, but that didn't mean some time...perhaps this time, Touya might recognize the name and pen a different sort of reply. Yukito himself never knew any of the girls who approached his friend, and Touya never seemed to know or express interest in any of their classmates. But despite this, Yukito was acutely aware of how quickly things could change. Touya was all for soccer and part-time jobs now, but someday he might aim for a girl to fill his life.
So far, Nakuru seemed like the most prominent girl vying for the position.
After tucking the letter into a pocket for safekeeping, Yukito hurried back to class. It was a relief to no longer have to wake up open-eyed in strange places, wondering where he'd been and how he'd gotten to wherever he was. Well...it happened less than it used to, at any rate.
Yukito didn't wonder over his heart aching at the thought of Touya with a girl. He knew quite simply that he loved his friend and he had loved him for years -- existing without Touya was anathema. The thought of some other person coming into that closeness he and Touya had never failed to raise odd pangs in his chest. He treasured their close friendship.
But he couldn't say it. His love was a deep part of himself tucked away and since it belonged to Touya, it wasn't Yukito's to voice.
"Off somewhere sneaking a snack?" Touya's voice startled him as he returned to his seat. The dark-haired boy's head was propped on one wrist, eyes angled to the window.
"N-no," Yukito faltered, then recovered his smile. "I'm not hungry!"
Touya blinked. "Where's my calendar? I've got to write this down. A landmark occasion for you, Yuki!" He smiled, a light breaking over his usually shuttered face.
Yukito swallowed at the familiar use of his name that always made his heart thud. His fingers brushed over the dark fabric of his pocket. "To-ya, I--"
"Class, please return to your seats." Sensei had re-entered the room. "Lunch time is over."
Touya's eyebrows arched at him questioningly. "What?" he mouthed.
Yukito shook his head. Later. It could certainly wait. He didn't much care how long.
Yukito waved politely to a cluster of girls from his class as they passed by the bike racks. ”Mata ne!"
"Na, Yuki..." Touya pulled his bike free of the rack, popping up the kickstand. "Did you have something to tell me?"
"Huh?" Yukito paused by his own bike, tugging at one of his backpack straps. "Did I? Oh..." He fumbled for his pocket, and the letter there.
Touya half-turned, giving him a quizzical look beneath dark brows.
Yukito's fingers clenched over his pocket. What if he *did* recognize the name on the letter, this time? What if the look of puzzlement turned to surprise, then a smile?
The dark-haired boy made a *woulf*-ing noise of astonishment as a body collided into him from behind, and a pair of slender hands covered his eyes. "Guess who?" the girl trilled, eyes boring into Yukito.
"Akizuki," Touya gritted, not sounding particularly happy.
"Pin-pon!" Nakuru giggled, her covering hands sliding down to turn into a chokehold as she glomped onto him.
"Akizuki," Touya wheezed, "I need air."
"Oh, sorry!" Nakuru released him and took a step back, inching around until she faced Touya. Her glance towards Yukito was cool.
Yukito held his ground with a puzzled but determinedly cheerful expression. He didn't know why Akizuki didn't like him; it wasn't like he was a *rival* to her. As far as he knew he wasn't even in the running. But he and Touya were going to the Kinomoto house for some after-school study, so there was nothing she could--
"Touya-kun, Kadowaki-sensei wants to see you." Nakuru clasped her hands together and beamed up at him. "Right now."
Touya sighed. "Hei, hei." He pushed his bicycle back into the stand. "Yuki, I'll catch up to you later." He gave Yukito a look of long-suffering resignation.
Yukito looked at Nakuru. The girl had some sort of homing instinct where Touya was concerned.
"See you later!" she beamed.
"Y-Yeah. Later," Touya said weakly, then he lifted a hand to Yukito in farewell. He squared his shoulders and turned back to the school.
"Later," Yukito repeated. He managed a smile. He didn't know *how* Nakuru always managed it, but almost every time she interrupted, there was some legitimate excuse for Touya's immediate departure. He lowered his eyes and concentrated on freeing his bike from the rack. Afternoons with Touya were rare and precious; there was usually soccer practice or one of Touya's baito to contend with.
When he looked up again, Nakuru was still there. "Are?" Yukito did his best to give her a guileless smile, but he knew it was an uneasy expression.
She was giving him that narrow-eyed, sly smile. "Good job," she said cryptically.
"You may have gotten it first, but that doesn't mean things won't still be difficult for you," Nakuru continued.
Yukito was thoroughly confused. "What are you talking about?"
Nakuru tilted her head. "Maybe you actually don't know!" She dimpled, then skipped off.
It was amazing. He'd never met a girl he actually considered annoying before, but this one definitely tested the limits of his patience. Touya didn't seem to have a shred of tolerance for her, either.
Still puzzled, he walked his bike for a few paces before getting on and wheeling out of the grounds.
When Touya said later, did he mean Yukito's house or the Kinomoto's?
"Tadaima," Touya called out, toeing his shoes off in the genkan.
"Okaeri," Sakura called back in the star-struck tone he recognized well. Yuki had gotten here first. Fortunately Kadowaki-sensei hadn't kept him long, so they would still have time to study.
It wasn't studying he really wanted to do. But he had already used up his nerve in telling Yuki that he *knew* he wasn't human; had known, in fact, since the first time their eyes met, and their hands touched. And when Yuki had... transformed...it seemed like Yue was the only one who remembered that confession.
Touya remembered soft lips touching his neck, a mass of silvery hair sliding over one shoulder to brush against his chest, and a husky voice so like Yuki's, but indefinably different.
"To-ya, come try some of this cake your father left! It's delicious!" Yukito looked up as he came around to the living room. He lifted a forkful to his lips.
His friend was still hungry a lot...but it wasn't as bad as it had been before. Maybe it took awhile for the power Yue had absorbed to have an effect. He'd hate to think it might have been for nothing. No, not nothing. That look on Yue's face...
He sat with them for tea and a little cake. No sense in rushing things. It wasn't like he'd actually work up the courage to say anything.
"Ja, thanks for tea, kaijuu," Touya told her, patting his little sister on the head. He could always count on her to whip up something nice whenever Yuki came over. Everyone knew she had a crush on him except for Yuki himself. She'd outgrow it some day, of course -- he just hoped it wouldn't be for that Chinese gaki, instead.
"Ah...it's nothing!" Sakura jumped up and started clearing dishes. She blushed, looked at Yuki, and on cue...*hanyaaaan!*
Touya grabbed his backpack, giving Yuki a look. "Ready?"
"Un!" Yuki retrieved his from beside the door.
Touya shut the door behind them, as always. Before, keeping his door shut had been a precaution to blurting out that he knew something...and wanted to know more and didn't understand why Yuki had kept it from him for so long. He knew Yuki wasn't human and figured Yuki had known it, too. The thought that Yuki hadn't known himself had never occurred to him. And the thought of speaking his feelings, too, hadn't occurred to him before now. There were unsaid assumptions in their relationship.
But now that he knew about Yue, he had to do something. He wanted it to be sooner rather than later.
"Calculus first?" Yuki lifted the thick text from his bag.
"Guess so," Touya agreed laconically. He hesitated. "Yuki...did you have something to tell me?"
There. Throw the ball in his court.
"Oh..." Yuki looked uncomfortable, and his hand rose to his breast pocket again. It looked like he was clutching at his heart. "Yes...well, here." He pulled a little envelope from the pocket and handed it over.
Touya turned it over in his hands. "Love letter." There was a heart sticker on the back, holding the flap closed. He had seen hundreds of them, since he was about ten years old. Maybe thousands. And the only two people he had ever cared about hadn't been, and weren't, the type to send him a love letter.
"Un," Yuki said with a nod.
He chucked it in the general direction of his bed. It fell near the nightstand.
"A-Aren't you going to open it now?" Yuki blinked.
Touya shrugged. "No reason to."
"But you don't know who it's from," Yuki tilted his head.
How could someone manage to look apprehensive and relieved at the same time? "No, I don't," Touya agreed. "Doesn't matter. I'll open it later and figure out how to turn her down."
Yuki was silent for a moment, processing this. "How *do* you turn them all down?"
Touya snorted. "It's never easy turning a woman down. Sometimes they cry. Sometimes they get mad. They always ask why." He hated it when they cried -- it reminded him of his sister. And sometimes, they asked if he already had someone he liked. Touya was honest. He always said 'yes.' And then they smiled bravely and told him they hoped his special person would return his feelings, some day.
Yuki smiled. "You're so popular."
Touya frowned slightly. There was something Yuki wasn't asking. *Why* did he turn them all down? That was what Yuki really wanted to know. He may have given his extrasensory perception to Yue, but he could still read his best friend. There was nothing psychic about that.
"Well!" Yuki flipped open his book, shifting the course of the conversation. "We've got a lot of homework."
Touya sighed, finger-combed his bangs out of his eyes, and began to chew on his eraser. He was relieved the topic had changed, but frustrated because he still wanted answers. It was going to be a long study-session.
He woke from a sound sleep, disoriented and adrift in his moon-washed bed. There was something nagging at the edge of his brain. Touya sat up, pushing aside the snarl of sheets that trapped his thighs. He could feel something very familiar...and very nearby.
He pushed open the window and leaned out. It was quiet outside, except for the soft shirring of insects. Moonlight silvered over the yard, leaving a frosted-over landscape. He rested his elbows on the windowsill and examined the large tree beside their house.
"I know you're there," he called out softly. He was vindicated immediately. Shadows didn't jump -- not by themselves, at any rate.
After a moment, a low voice answered. "How did you know I was here?" Wing-shaped blots of darkness rustled.
Touya shrugged. "Not sure. I woke up and I knew."
Yue drifted forward and moonlight spilled over his features. He glowed -- not literally, but with an inner light. Beautiful. "I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, considering your family, the sister and the father...and you. With so much power, I must not have taken it all."
Touya shook his head. "That's not it." He hesitated. *I gave you everything.* "I think I can recognize what I gave you; it calls to me, even though I don't have it anymore."
"Sou ka." Yue drifted closer. His pale feline eyes were fixed on him.
"So..." Touya took a step back. "Are you going to come in, or not?"
Yue looked startled. Nevertheless, he settled on the windowsill, wings folding gracefully as he squeezed them through the narrow gap. "I don't understand you," the ethereal being informed him.
Touya snorted. "*You* don't understand *me?* Is that why you're here?"
Yue folded his arms across the narrow chest and wouldn't answer.
Touya sighed and rubbed his sleep-tousled hair, messing it up a little more. "Great...I get to play guessing games at midnight." That just gave him the urge to turn around and go to bed. And yet...and yet...Yue was *here.* That had to mean something. The mystery intrigued him enough to banish sleepiness.
"Why did you save me?" Yue said abruptly.
Touya blinked. He thought he'd made it clear. "I didn't want my friend to disappear." He knew, somehow, that he'd come very close to losing him earlier in the year. He didn't quite know how he knew, but... Yuki would have disappeared completely, and that wouldn't have been the only thing...
"You mean Yukito." The triangular face tilted to the side, looking cold and pale.
Touya scowled. "I mean both of you."
Yue's mouth tightened. "I am not Yukito."
"You have the same heart," Touya rejoined.
Yue stared at him without speaking. It wasn't precisely a friendly look.
"Anyhow," Touya sighed again, running a hand through his hair. It was time to change the subject. "Will you tell me what's going on? I don't know -- Sakura won't tell me anything, but I know she's been in danger. And you--"
"Sakura can take care of herself very well," Yue interrupted him. With a toss of that silver-white hair, his wings glowed, shrank, and disappeared. He seated himself on the edge of the bed and folded his arms again. Touya stared. He hadn't known Yue could do that. "But if she is out of her depth, Kerberos and I are there to protect her."
*Kerberos.* Touya narrowed his eyes. For some reason that name brought to mind Sakura's little winged stuffed animal.
He gave Yue a nod. "Thank you."
"You don't have to thank me," Yue returned, stiffly.
Touya shrugged. "I know. I'm thanking you anyhow."
There was silence for a long interval. Touya began to wonder what he was doing sitting up at midnight in his pajamas with an open window, and a silver-haired beautiful angel who would barely speak three words to him.
Touya folded his own arms, feeling a shiver travel up his spine.
He blinked. A white drape of cloth was being offered to him. Touya looked at Yue and pulled the cloth, like a shawl, over his shoulders. It tugged against resistance and Yue blinked and shifted on the bed and Touya realized it was still attached to Yue's clothing.
His cheeks burned.
"A very long time ago, there was a magician named Clow Reed," Yue began, in even tones.
Touya settled back on the bed to listen to the tale.
Yue told him about the magician Clow, the Cards he created, and the Guardians that were his companions for a long time. Even in the midst of his narrative, Touya knew Yue was holding something back.
When Yue finished telling him, they were silent again.
Touya looked at him. "Have you always been with Yuki?"
Yue frowned. "No," he admitted. "I was sealed into him some time ago -- around the time Sakura was born, I believe. Yukito was dying."
Touya started. "He's always looked fragile, but I never thought...What was it?"
"An accident," Yue replied, and that was all he would say.
Another little silence. This was becoming awkward.
"Why did you come here?" Touya blurted out, at the same time that Yue looked up and asked, "Why did you invite me in?"
They stared at each other. Touya unbent slightly. "Because I wanted to."
Touya's dark brows rose. "Don't you have friends?"
Yue didn't need to think about it. "No," he said flatly.
"Then maybe that's why you're here," Touya suggested.
"Touya...you..." Yue looked troubled. He stared at his pale hands for a long time, and then an odd expression crossed his face. "...Perhaps."
Touya tugged the cloth from around his shoulders, folding it over one arm and handing it back to Yue. "Thank you. I was..." Touya trailed off. He hadn't *exactly* been cold.
Yue stood. "I've kept you from your sleep."
"No, it's fine," Touya said softly.
Yue was looking around his room. Abruptly he stiffened and took a few short strides over to Touya's nightstand, where he stooped.
"What is it?" Touya stood, too, confused.
Yue was holding the love letter envelope in one pale hand. "This is..." He studied the envelope. "Yukito gave this to you."
"A-aa," Touya agreed, eyebrows rising. Yue looked puzzled. "It's a love letter."
"Where did it come from?" Yue was weighing it in his hand.
Touya shrugged. "I don't know -- some girl. I haven't opened it yet."
Yue set it down, and looked at him steadily with those disconcerting pale eyes. "Who do you care for, Touya? It's not any of the girls who send you love letters."
Touya looked back. "I -- I think you know." It was true, those eyes were knowing.
"You care for Yukito," Yue said slowly.
"Yes," Touya said hoarsely.
Yue turned and his white moonlight hair undulated between his shoulders, pooling past his bare feet, as he moved towards the window.
"Wait! Where are you going?" Touya demanded. He confessed, and Yue walked out?
Yue glanced over his shoulder, face expressionless. His wings unfolded in a soundless burst of white light. "You care for Yukito," he repeated, as if that said everything.
"Yeah," Touya clenched his hands. "And you have the same heart."
Yue turned around in a single quick movement, violet eyes wide. Touya had managed to startle him again.
"Yue, why are *you* concerned about that letter?" Touya asked, after a moment of hesitation. Now that he had regained Yue's attention...he wasn't quite sure what to do with it.
The pale wings stiffened. "Concerned?" Yue repeated, sounding affronted. He turned, feline-purple eyes seeking Touya's, then his expression altered to one of those unfathomable looks. "It was just...that kehai..."
"Kehai...?" Touya repeated, then shook his head a little. "If I didn't know better, I'd say you were trying to distract me."
Yue's platinum-fine brows contracted. "Why would--"
"Never mind," Touya shook his head. He felt tired. A painful thought had touched him, that Yue would deny any attraction between them indefinitely, based on one simple misperception.
"When you say we have the same heart," Yue spoke slowly and carefully, "what do you mean by that?"
Touya frowned. It wasn't something he could put into words, not so easily. Worse than that, he wasn't a verbally expressive person, and he knew it. It showed in how he was with Sakura, teasingly calling her 'kaijuu' but not meaning it as an insult. With Yue, though, he was afraid that saying the wrong thing would have this beautiful creature slipping through his fingers like that gossamer length of hair he'd love to touch...
He took a few steps forward and Yue held his ground, watchful. Dark chocolate brown eyes met cool violet in a steady contest, as if daring the other to look away first. But Yue hadn't considered the fact that he didn't intend to make this a contest.
Touya took the remaining step and before Yue could glide back in recoil, he reached up to take the pale sharp jaw between his hands, fingers splayed, bridging the inches of difference in their heights. His mouth closed over Yue's with soft finality.
That mouth beneath his was pliant at first -- out of shock, no doubt. Then it softened further, lips showing a promise of parting...then Yue's mouth flinched beneath him and the smaller creature was pulling away, jerking out of the loose clasp of hands on his face. His pale eyes were wide and violet-shot with shock, almost accusation. "You--" Yue started, voice low and rough. His lips formed a narrow line. Without warning, he spun and unfurled his wings, leaping into the night.
Touya went after him but he wasn't fast enough. The moon guardian was gone. One fist hit the windowsill with enough force to make him wince. "Dammit." Yue hadn't understood, after all. There had been something in his eyes that said he might.
At least Yue couldn't communicate Touya's mis-step to his alter ego. If that were the case, then Touya would be on the outs with both flip-sides of the person whose opinion mattered the most to him.
"Dammit," he repeated, staring off into the
evening. He only hoped Yue would give him a chance to make it
"Hanyaaaan," Sakura sighed in her sleep, then turned over and began snoring faintly.
Kerberos, the great Beast of the Seal, sweatdropped and scratched his round fuzzy head. For some reason he just couldn't get to sleep. Then he felt a tingle along his nerves.
His head snapped up. "Yue?" he whispered in disbelief. What was *that* one doing here, this time of night? Kero drifted up and over to the windowsill. He was treated to a good view of the silver-haired one flying from Sakura's brother's window -- and he was flying fast.
Kero rubbed at his beady eyes, then narrowed them.
"Huh," he said finally.
A little smile curled his lips. "Maybe now he'll stop being such a stick," Kero harrumphed, drifting back to his miniature bedroom in Sakura's desk drawer. He fluffed his pillow. Yue had been deadly serious for far too long – ever since shortly before Master Clow had passed on. Perhaps now...
Kero flopped onto his tiny bed with a contented sigh.
"Hai." Kinomoto Fujitaka beamed, setting plates down on the table. "Miso soup, grilled fish, and rice."
"A traditional Japanese breakfast!" Sakura beamed back, sliding into her seat. She touched the picture of Nadeshiko on the table. "Ohayou, Okaasan. Itadakimasu!"
Touya mumbled something similar around a mouthful of food, and stood. "Gochishousama deshita," he said politely, and picked up his backpack. He pulled out the letter sticking out of the top flap, intending to read it on the way to his bike.
"Hoeee! O-NII-chan!" Sakura wailed, beginning to shovel in her own food. "Why are you in such a hurry this morning?" She said it around a mouthful of rice, bringing up her napkin to avoid spraying crumbs.
Touya shrugged, contained the urge to smile, and headed for the door. "Saa. Why are *you* in such a hurry, kaijuu?"
Sakura said nothing, only blushed furiously crimson and kept packing it in. She wanted to meet up with Yukito on the way to school, of course. He knew it and was amused by it, she knew it and would never admit, and Yuki remained cheerfully oblivious.
He grabbed his backpack and something fell from the top, where the flap wasn't quite closed. "Huh?" Feet still moving, he walked outside and stood by his bike, staring at the love letter. What was the point? It would just be another girl he had to meet and turn down, and whenever Yuki saw him with one of those letters, his doe-like eyes were more determinedly cheerful than usual.
Sakura skidded out the door, blades half-buckled around her ankles. "Hoee!" She screeched to a stop. She gave him a puzzled look, then an intent one as she stared at the letter in his hand. "Ano, Oniichan...that letter..."
"It's a love letter," Touya said, exasperated. "That and nothing more."
"Whu?" Sakura huffed. Her 'thinking crease' appeared between her eyebrows. "Oniichan, you..."
Touya recognized that look. It usually formed on her face a short time before she went dashing out the door, making some trumped-up excuse or another. "It's nothing," he repeated, and stuffed it into his pocket. First Yue, now his sister, both of them psychics. He had a bad feeling about this.
He would read it later.
It wasn't until halfway through the mid-morning classes that he remembered the letter crumpled into his pocket. Yukito had gone to the bathroom and Touya was in danger of chewing his eraser right off, in the middle of a typical, boring history lesson. He had already studied everything the book had to offer, so he was ahead.
Touya pulled the letter from his pocket and looked around, trying not to act furtive.
Akizuki was staring right at him, eyes narrowed.
Touya ducked his head and placed the letter in the middle of his textbook, raising it up to provide some sort of screen. He pried up the heart sticker. He could still feel Akizuki's eyes on him -- funny, he'd never noticed before how catlike they were.
He took the letter out, trying not to let it rustle loudly. He felt like the entire class was looking, not just Akizuki. But he *had* to read the damned thing before Yuki got back.
Touya went through it with a skimming eye, knowing the basic template already, needing the most crucial piece - the name of the girl who'd written it.
A surprised curse stuck on his lips. Habit saved him from committing a crime worthy of holding up thick books in the hallway.
Yukito slid into the seat beside him.
"Did I miss anything?" he asked with a smile.
Touya turned his head with creaking slowness. His impulse was to say, *You missed quite a lot,* but he shook his head. "N-no," he stumbled over the word. He was the one who felt like he'd missed something.
The letter was from Yuki.
His friend settled into his seat and flipped his text a few pages, catching up.
Touya felt stunned. It was in Yukito's neat, incisive strokes, no ink wasted. The kanji at the bottom was his name. And yet...although, perhaps that had been why Yukito had been so curious about the letter, asking why Touya wouldn't open it right then. No, that was an impossible theory.
Yue would have known about the letter...right?
Maybe he had. Maybe that was why he had been waiting, taking up a silent vigil outside Touya's room the night before. If he felt the same way as Yuki, and Touya knew he must, then he would have been edgy, too.
If Yuki had...how upset must he be, right now, with Touya's continued silence? Not mentioning the letter once...but Yuki's attitude wasn't strained at all, his smile was as easy as ever, and it was always clear to Touya when his friend was upset.
The letter couldn't be from Yuki. Otherwise he wouldn't have been discomfited, and hiding it very well, when he passed it over to Touya -- and seemed relieved when the other boy declined to open it. Then again, maybe that *did* mean it was from Yuki.
No. He stuck by his original opinion. Yuki was the one he cared for, and he was not the type to write a love-letter. It was trite and girlish.
So who, then, was it from?
Behind the raised textbook, he pressed his lips together. He had a feeling this had *something* to do with Sakura's cards. Both Yue and Sakura's reactions were a dead-on clue.
Somebody wanted him to confess.
For the second day in a row, Touya didn't have a baito. He stewed all day as he wondered what to do. He didn't feel like admitting his feelings on the sole virtue of a pack of cards -- however special -- trying to set him up. On the other hand, he feared what they might do if he held out. Least of all, how Yue figured into all of this. One way or another, he suspected Yue was going to be hurt. He was so damned touchy.
And so damned beautiful.
"Oi, Yuki," he said out of the blue, as they left Seijou High that day.
Yukito looked over. "Hmm?"
Touya looked around first, craning his head this way and that, and at one point nearly one-eighty degrees. Akizuki was nowhere in sight. "Let's go to my place, okay?"
"Sure," Yukito agreed. "We don't have that much homework, maybe we--"
"We can have tea," Touya interrupted, already planning ahead. If they went straight up to his room, Sakura would bring it up with sparkles in her eyes. Then he could escape behind the door. She would be disappointed, but only expected a glimpse of Yukito in these cases -- and he wasn't taking advantage; she prepared the snacks voluntarily.
The house was empty when they returned to the Kinomoto residence. A couple of steps inside revealed why. Their family whiteboard proclaimed that Fujitaka would be working late, and Sakura had clean-up duties.
Touya stumbled and felt self-conscious. Alone. They were alone in the house. He thought he could hear his heartbeat.
"To-ya?" Yuki was at his elbow.
"Let's go upstairs."
"O-okay," Yukito agreed. His glance was lingering, a little worried. Distress painted a crease between his eyebrows.
Touya wanted to say 'no, that's not what I meant,' because he had used the 'we need to talk' tone of voice. But his cheeks were burning too hard; he was afraid his voice might crack. They were alone in the house, and if he listened hard he could hear the other's heartbeat. They went up to his room, and he closed the door behind them more out of habit than anything else.
"It's the letter, isn't it?" Yukito's voice was muted. "You've found someone. Someone you like. And that person wrote you that letter."
Touya turned, looking at Yuki's bowed head, feeling surreal. Now he knew for sure it hadn't been Yuki.
"Oh." Yukito's voice was small and muffled.
"That's why I have to tell you..." His throat stuck. He had to pry his lips apart, moistening them with his tongue. "Yuki...ore...omae...omae ga suki da."
Slowly, the lowered head lifted, pale bangs obscuring the large round glasses. Then he was looking over into Yuki's sunny smile.
"To-ya, boku mo."
He blinked. He felt an odd frustration. No, Yuki must not have understood. He tried again. "Yuki, I *really* like you."
"Me too," Yukito agreed.
The surge of frustration welled higher. He had to make Yuki understand. There wasn't anybody else, even if Yuki *hadn't* written the letter... "I love you." He took hold of the slender, almost too-fragile shoulders in both hands.
Yuki's eyes were warm, and shining, and gentle. He nodded. "I understand, To-ya," he whispered. "I love you, too." He bent his head and when he lifted it again, a tear formed at the corner of one large eye, one that wouldn't fall. Yuki's smile wobbled, then firmed.
"You really...you really do?"
He lifted a hand and brushed the tear away.
Without waiting for an answer, Touya tilted his head, making just the right angle for two mouths to fit together. Then he did it without thinking, the thing he'd most been wanting for a long time. It was the best kind of kiss, no clumsy nose-bumpings, going on pure instinct and all the pent-up feeling he'd been sitting on this whole time. Yuki's mouth was warm and soft. The other boy had taken a step closer and his lips were slightly parted.
It was tender, and so incredibly sweet, that his heart ached inside him.
Yuki felt the same as he did. That was the most important thing. It was nothing like the hasty kiss he had stolen from Yue the night before, but somehow he got the feeling this made up for it, and this was how it could have been.
When they moved apart, Yuki was breathing against his lips, a warm sensation. They hadn't separated more than a millimeter.
"To-ya, I..." Yuki started, voice cracking, and he stopped. Tried again. "I thought..."
"I know." With a light touch, he stroked the back of Yuki's neck. The other boy shivered. He dredged up the crumpled shape of the letter and passed it over without comment.
After a moment, Yuki looked up with confused eyes. "I don't understand. I didn't write this."
Touya nodded. He'd figured as much. "It's all right," he said, taking it back, placing it on his nightstand. He wouldn't be surprised if it disappeared some time in the night. "I think someone just wanted us to be honest about our feelings." All right, he didn't care if the Cards had done it or not. He was happy with the result.
Yukito looked at the letter with a furrowed brow for a moment, as if he would protest or pursue the mystery, then turned his face up again. The line of his mouth softened. "To-ya," he said, and that was enough reason to bend his head and pass his lips over Yuki's again.
A heart could fly without wings.
"It doesn't matter," he whispered after a long moment. "It's served its purpose."
After another moment, he removed Yuki's glasses.
Nightfall was gentle and silver-laced, the full moon high in the sky and casting crisp shadows where it could.
On the other side of the window, Kinomoto Touya slept, sprawled in a relaxed pose on his back with a tiny smile on his face. It brought a tight feeling of hurt to the watcher's chest, because he remembered that smile, but on another's face.
Yue had been watching Touya sleep for half the night, and he didn't know why.
After a moment he stirred on his perch, uneasy. He had no right and no claim and, despite the strange behavior of Touya the other night, apparently no cause. Yue had pinpointed the source of his discomfiture.
He was outside, looking in.
With owl-like silence Yue unfurled his wings, and
disappeared into the night.
~ to be continued ~